Trash Fish Boston: Stepping Up to the Plate

This is a guest post by Chef Samuel Monsour, Chefs Collaborative member, culinary mercenary and formerly of jmCurley in Boston.

In mid December 2013, Rob Booz  of Chefs Collaborative reached out to me and asked if I’d like to participate in this year’s Trash Fish Dinner hosted in Boston.

Rob’s email informed me that this year’s event would be held at Area Four in Cambridge on Sunday March 16th, which strategically coincides with the Boston Seafood Show. I was super pumped to be invited and without hesitation said sign me up!

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A scene from the Summit. Credit: Sam Monsour.

Just a month beforehand, a bunch of us @chefscollab folks were in Charleston for the annual summit. The warm low-country sun over the long weekend helped us forget that winter was coming, and cheerfully, we soaked up rays of rich food culture and southern heritage. To my surprise, there were countless amazing people from New England that flew down south for the cause. Josh Lewin (Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro) and I crossed paths frequently, Mary Reilly (formerly Enzo Restaurant & Bar, now Edible Pioneer Valley), my father and I all enjoyed a long walk together, and after giving one of the most memorable speeches of the summit, Michael Leviton (The Man) and I tentatively booked a future beer date. (I’ve got a feeling that this Sunday night works well for the both of us.)

As a Collaborative, our four-day summit was a sustainable sprint that put us all on track toward a better tomorrow. Our finish line became clearer, and felt more in sight than ever before. Collectively, we realized that a future with promise doesn’t start tomorrow, but rather, started yesterday by our founding members. It will be up to each and every one of us to keep pace and endure the journey for a lifetime. I guess it’s more of a marathon than a sprint.

I remember during a panel discussion, I asked Sean Brock and Michael Ruhlman some pretty tough questions:

“As a young chef, what will I do when I’m handed the baton? What will I do when it’s my responsibility to keep the movement on track? What’s our endgame? How do we reach the masses?”

I’ll never forget Chef Brock’s answer. Simply put, and without hesitation, he responded, “never give up.” In the moment, I was expecting a more complicated answer, but as time has passed and I have been able to reflect, I’ve realized just how acute and powerful those three words are.

Ahh, the fucking memories. Anyone else hit up that skeevy-ass pizza joint a block from the hotel, Gilroy’s? Did you take them up on their BYOB license and grab an ice cold tall-boy of PBR from across the street while you awaited your hot and gooey slice?? Maaan, what a blast that trip was.

I guess that’s where I’m going with all of this. For as many great things as I learned and was exposed to, I had even more great interactions with people. After all, it was people that gave the speeches and hosted the breakout sessions, and it was people that showed up to learn and participate (over 300). All of those people decided to pledge an allegiance to a great cause, and I think it’s vital to our mission that we to take time to reflect upon how important and vital people are. Without people, there would be no collaborative.

My Pops and I met some super passionate people during our stay, one in particular that I’d like to mention is Scott Nichols (Verlasso). He shared with all of us some very harsh realities of farm-raised fish, and the approach toward farming salmon that Verlasso is working on. Scott sent us a few whole salmon over Christmas so that we could sample his product. They were wicked tasty! Scott will be in town for the seafood show and he’ll be dining with us at the Trash Fish Dinner. I love that small world shit. It’s proof that we really can build a global network of like-minded professionals, all working together toward painting the bigger picture. A piece of art that our founding mothers and fathers envisioned in the 70’s. (Insert green grass related marijuana pun here.)

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Samuel Monsour

It truly moves me that I can have so many feelings about a dinner event that hasn’t even happened yet, and none of which have anything to do with actual cooking. The original purpose of this little blurb was to share the creative process of developing a dish using #TrashFish, but I think I’ll refrain.

This story ends here, on a much bigger note. This dinner isn’t just another dinner. Sure, the food will be delicious, and of course, “trash fish” will be utilized and promoted. But, way more than eating will be going on. Awareness will be raised. Commitments toward the movement will stay true. Bonds will be strengthened.

Let us remember that through nourishing our relationships we actively work toward growth, and spread the philosophy of the sustainability movement. I truly look forward to seeing all of you at the dinner and the seafood show, and am grateful to be on a card with 9 outstanding chefs.

***Teaser*** There will be at least 5 unsung heroes of the night: dogfish, Acadian redfish, hake, Atlantic Pollock, sea clam. (Sea raven and sculpin are available if any of the chefs want to step up to the plate.)

Posted by: Alisha Fowler

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